I. Overture, with Locomotive
Up the street from my boyhood home
is the western portal of a Delaware, Lackawanna
and Western Railroad tunnel –
One of the shortest on record,
it ends at the west bank of the Oswego River,
four blocks away.
For a six year old boy, that is the measure
of a railroad tunnel, and to trespass it alone,
the measure of daring –
And the triumph of wonder over wisdom.
Just as its maw exerts force in daylight, at night,
the rhythm track of my green mind is laid:
Clickety clack clickety clack clickety clack
clickety clack clickety clack clickety clack clickety
clack clickety clack clickety clack clickety
The sound of Pennsylvania mountains,
in chunks, now in New York, to become
steam, then power for our Philco sets,
Which display, in crystal clarity, Roy Cohn
as he counsels Joe McCarthy, how to deepen
the trench that alienates Americans.
II. Sustenance of Memory
A luminous blackness is what I recall entering
before dawn the autumn I was twelve to do my paper route,
in a grid of streets with European and Haudenosaunee names.
From home on Montcalm Street overlooking Lake Ontario,
I zigzagged along streets named
until I arrived at the alley alongside the Oswego River,
where we paperboys rolled the Syracuse Post-Standard
into porch-seeking missiles.
Now, a bleak time suck is what I imagine when I consider
googling “news fall 1962,” to add a veneer of verisimilitude
over my memory from boyhood, as if our missiles needed warheads.
But memory doesn’t need facts, only honesty –
we’ll be sustained by that, plus a mouthful of names.
III. Buoys and Gales
Down the street from my teenage home
is Lake Ontario; my bedroom window
frames the harbor: breakwall, buoys, and lighthouse.
Beacons break the dark with random red pulses
and a broad beam of light sweeps the water –
north east south west, around and around and around.
Once in a blue moon the beacons pulse at once,
as if to acknowledge your rapt attention.
Stormy weather is the best time to gaze –
when the foghorn sounds, it says you’re doomed
to loneliness and sorrow, if not in so many words.
We swam there and used a buoy near the breakwall
like a giant toy – we clambered aboard, tried to topple it, as if
we Oswego boys could do what Lake Ontario gales never did.
– Dave Read